Just when this pandemic has caused all of us to worry about the upcoming Nov. 3 elections, a new group, Arkansas Voters First Inc., has a wild, new question before voters to establish "open" primary elections and "majority winner general elections with instant runoffs," in our state.
The open primary and these whacky instant runoffs are a cause for extreme worry.
An open' primary would mean there is no longer a need for Republican and Democrat primaries.
Every candidate will be on the same primary ballot.
This style of election is sought by the paid-per-signature canvassers outside public buildings such as the local post offices, Walmarts. The umbrella group Arkansas Voters First Inc. is headquartered in Little Rock, but actually is an arm of the Houston (Texas)-based Actions Now Initiative LLC.
This same LLC has donated $1.8 million of its $3.1 million war chest for this petition drive and potential election initiative to change the way Arkansans vote.
The purpose of the Action Now Initiative states that the group "...seeks to improve the lives of individuals through political advocacy."
Whatever, you ask, does that mean?
The group is proffering an amendment which, after its passage, commands the legislature to pass laws to fix this voting mess.
The proposal, (1) if it gets enough signatures; (2) if it gets on the Nov. 3 ballot; (3) if it passed by the voters; and (4) if it passes the muster of any State Supreme Court challenge; will then take place Jan. 1, 2021, just prior to the next legislative session.
Back to the one ballot for everyone who is running for a "covered" office.
That means the state's two U.S. senators, all four of the state's members of Congress, the 135 legislators, the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor, state land commissioner and state treasurer will be on just one ballot in a primary, along with candidates from the Libertarian, Socialist, Communist, Free Range and even Flat Earth political parties (or hybrids thereof) listing candidates for these "covered" offices on the ballot. (This will not affect any judicial office in Arkansas).
Under this proposal, voters may also have multiple candidates from the major parties -- such as the Republican Party or Democratic Party -- on the same ballot.
For example, the open primary for governor in 2021 might have eight candidates -- three Republican candidates, two Democrat candidates, a Libertarian, a Socialist and a Free-Thinker Party member or a write-in candidate -- all on the same ballot for a primary.
After the voting, only the top four in each "covered" race will advance to the general-election ballot.
Let me say that again. Only the top four vote-getting candidates -- regardless of party affiliation or lack thereof, advance to the general-election ballot.
So, come November, there possibly could be three Republicans and a lone Democrat on the ballot or, perhaps, any mixture of candidates.
Now that is where the "funny stuff" really begins.
With four candidates in each race, voters may select one or more of these four candidates by ranking their preference(s) in this race. This may be done by marking a 1, 2, 3 and 4 ranking of their voting choices.
If there is no clear winner on "first" choice selections, the race will head into an "instant" runoff.
What happens now, you ask?
The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. But those voters, who have selected the eliminated candidate as their first choice, now will have their second choice vote counted.
So, if you voted for the fourth-ranked candidate (as your first choice and that vote choice is eliminated), now your second choice in this race, suddenly gets your vote.
Now they again count up the ballots.
Still, no candidate has a clear majority. So the elimination round begins again, and so on until one of the candidates has a majority -- even if the voters themselves did not select this candidate as their top choice.
Wow! Arkansas doesn't need this voting mess, now does it?
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Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] Opinions expressed are those of the author.